Sunday, April 6, 2014

European Nogi Championships 4/5/14 - 4/6/14

I spent Saturday exploring Rome. I was a bit concerned that I wasn’t going to make weight on Sunday, so I wanted to get out and walk around for a good portion of the day in the hopes of burning down some calories and to also get a chance to see the city. What I didn’t expect was to be walking around for 9-10 hours. 

I started off at a Piazza del Popolo, where the tram dead ends. I walked around that area snapping some photos, and eventually finding a little Italian cafe to grab a small sandwich at. I somehow found the Spanish Steps, and waited around there for 10 minutes just people watching. It seemed like every tourist place had street urchins out trying to pawn their cheap goods to people. They had sunglasses, toys, and imitation purses for sale. While I was at the Steps, a policeman came by, which sent the urchins running with their goods. 

There is a main street, which connected the Piazza to the old city and eventually the Coliseum. That’s where I wanted to go. You see it on television, photos, in magazines, and online. This was my chance to finally get to see it in person. I like old history, especially from the old Roman days. It’s cool to look at and try to imagine what might have been going on some random day in the past. I took a bunch more pictures and then headed off across the street to various old houses and temples, but it looked like a garden. The gardens area was pretty big, a lot more walking than I imagined it would be. I ended up spending a good couple of hours there alone, just taking pictures and meandering about.

When I decided it was time to head back, I thought it would be cool to go and see the Vatican. The walk was probably going to be an hour or so there, but I was up for it. When I finally made it, they were closing things up. Just the square portion was still open. Was standing about, I had a couple of Chinese woman come up and ask if I would take their picture, I smiled and agree to but only if they would do the same for me in return. They giggled and agreed. We did the pictures and then one of them said that her friend wanted a picture with me, I laughed and said OK. After that was done, I told the picture taker that it was now her turn to take a picture with me. She turned a bit read in the face, giggled, and ran over next to me for the picture. 

My legs were starting to go a bit numb. I don’t think I had walked this much since I was in the military. Being in the Mid-West of the United States, I really don’t have to walk much. In fact, the cities are pretty much built for driving a car around all the time. I ended up getting lost, thinking I was at a different area then I though I was. Thankfully I found a shop that had someone who spoke decent English to get me back on track and back to my hotel. When I made it back, it was dinner time. 

The next morning it was time to get up and go back to the venue. I wasn’t slated to fight until around 12pm again. I spent most of the day running into different people that I had trained with earlier in my Trip. Wim, the black belt from Brasa in Belgium and I chatted for a bit. I ran into Darrough, the brown belt from East Coast BJJ in Dublin, some random French guy who didn’t speak English but wanted to say hello, and I saw Olga the brown belt from the Carlson Gracie Amsterdam academy. It was pretty cool to look back and think that I’ve trained with all these cool people in all these great countries over the past few weeks. 

It wasn’t too much lounger and my division was being called. I ran into my Greek friend again while waiting in the pit, it appeared that I would be fighting one of his countrymen in my first round of nogi. He didn’t know the guy, but they chatted like old friends anyways. I weighed in around 90.7 or so. About .8 kilos below what I needed to be. The night before I was joking that drinking a beer would shed .1 kilograms, and I had a couple of them, so I guess it worked! I wouldn’t recommend it, as I was pretty dehydrated that whole morning. 

We were called out onto the mat, only to have the referee tell me that my ankle supports were not allowed for competition. I sighed, I said they were, and he ran off to check with the tournament director. The tournament director said they were fine, now we were back in action. I felt like i set the pace of the round, looking for entries into hip throws, but never finding one. My opponent kept shooting single leg takedowns, only to have me sprawl on him but not be quick enough to take advantage of being in the better position. We both were eventually hit with penalties for “stalling” because neither of us could hit a takedown. With a little more than a minute left, I let my guard down and my opponent managed to get the single leg he was looking for. I immediately rolled into my goto half guard, the lockdown. My thoughts were simple, I have a good lockdown, and I don’t think many Europeans are familiar with the sweeps and the electric chair submission from here. It should be cake to get the tap and move on. 

Sadly, things didn’t work out that way. My opponent pretty much realizing he wasn’t getting out of my lockdown just laid on top of me like a dead fish. I wasn’t able to move him around very well, and thus screwed my attempts from the position. At some point I lost my cool and looked up at the referee, giving him some hand gestures to the effect of “are you going to doing something about this guy stalling?” He called one penalty to my opponent, but that wasn’t going to be enough. Time was running out, I was going to lose due to a takedown. Samir was yelling at me from the sideline that I needed to move my ass. One last hurrah. I disengaged my half guard and came up on an elbow, looking to cause a scramble and possibly come out ahead in the final few seconds. I wasn’t quick enough, the buzzer sounded, but the referee nor my opponent heard it. I ended up having to fend off a choke for about 20 seconds before Samir finally got the referees attention to stop the round. 

That was it. I was done. No chance at the Open division, no more matches. I had failed. The biggest thing was that I failed myself. I don’t feel that any of my opponents that had beaten me were any better than me. They were all good, but I felt like I was the better grappler. I had failed to show it. But, there were lessons to take away from the whole ordeal, and Samir was cool enough to offer me much needed advice.

I talked to Samir about it for a bit, and the resounding thing I’ve been hearing lately is that I need to be more aggressive. I tried to get some more from him on how to become more aggressive, what did I need to do? But he had trouble putting it into words other than I need to stop waiting for other people to make a move. He also said you compete the same way that you train. I feel like I train pretty hard back home, but maybe it’s not hard enough. Samir also said that becoming more aggressive can be a difficult thing to achieve, that a person really needs to dedicate themselves to it. 

I need to get rid of grips right away. Don’t allow the opponent to get grips before I get mine. This makes a lot of sense, especially with having some Judo experience. All the high level Judoka will grip fight until they get what they want and then execute their throw of choice. I need to be doing the same. The small thing that I was overlooking was that when I remove grips, I need to keep them for myself, don’t just throw their arms away and disengage. 

I also need to stay low when the match starts, like wrestler low. I like to keep my elbows and knees separated too much, which leads to people pulling guard. With your knees and elbows connected, it becomes much easier for you to defend against the guard pull because the opponent won’t be able to get their legs around your torso

Some other solid advice Samir gave me was that I need to posture up in guard more. I know I have a tendency to lay in peoples guard, one of the passes I’ve been working on for like a year is the “sao paulo” guard pass. So I hit Samir up for some advice on that too. When going for the cross face, I need to make sure it’s an undertook cross face and not an over hooked one. Another key point I was overlooking is that I need to switch my hips, making them perpendicular to the ground, then passing on the opposite side of where my cross face is. 

After everyone was done competing, we headed back to the hotel so that everyone could shower up before dinner. We headed back to the Pizzeria for our meal, and had a huge feast. We were probably a bit too loud from time to time, judging by some of the looks the other patrons were giving us. We didn’t care, and honestly it wasn’t that bad. We were having a good time. Luciano decided that we would be playing a drinking game, only to tap out about 3/4 of the way through because he was starting to feel the effects. Igor, who was capable of speaking English, ended up only being able to speak Swiss German and Croatian at the end of the night. He was nice enough to start giving me lessons in Croatian, but I think that was mostly the alcohol talking. Dario and I ended up staying for another beer, before buying one to go and chatting at the hotel before heading to bead. The guys were getting up early to make it out to the Airport to fly back to Zurich. I, on the other hand, would be flying to Hungary in the morning and taking a train to Pecs. 

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